With Speaker Willie Brown leading the opposition, the Assembly on Monday overwhelmingly defeated a bill that would have limited Chevron's ability to transport oil along the Ventura County coastline to refineries in Los Angeles.
The legislation was designed to set into law an agreement approved in January by the California Coastal Commission to allow up to 2.2 million gallons of crude oil to be transported down the coast during the next three years.
But the measure by Assemblyman Terry B. Friedman (D-Brentwood) was rejected on a vote of 27-42.
The legislation, which needed 41 votes for approval in the 80-member house, drew opposition from two Assembly Republicans who represent Ventura County, Nao Takasugi of Oxnard and Paula Boland of Granada Hills in Los Angeles County, and was favored by Democrat Jack O'Connell of Carpinteria.
The agreement climaxed a 10-year battle pitting Chevron against Santa Barbara officials and environmentalists from Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, who have opposed the oil company's plan to ship crude oil from its giant Point Arguello oil project off the Santa Barbara coast to Los Angeles.
Paralleling the agreement, Friedman's measure would have allowed the shipping of the oil by tanker until 1996. Like the agreement, it also would have prohibited tankering after Feb. 1, 1994, unless the producers had entered into an agreement to build a pipeline to ship the oil to Los Angeles.
Supporters said the bill was aimed at forcing Chevron to live up to terms of the Coastal Commission agreement.
Friedman argued that Chevron has failed to live up to past bargains to build a pipeline, and said the Legislature should intervene to ensure that the company follows the terms of its deal with the Coastal Commission.
The Assembly rejection of the proposal, he said, "increases the risk of an oil spill that could devastate the coastline and undermine the coastal economy," especially tourism and fishing in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.
"It's a defeat for the coastline and a victory for an oil company that has shown its disregard for coastal protection," a disappointed Friedman said.
The measure was supported by such environmental groups as the American Oceans Campaign and the Natural Resources Defense Council. It was opposed by Chevron and the Western States Petroleum Assn.
The opposition gained a powerful ally when Speaker Brown made an emotional plea on the Assembly floor to defeat Friedman's measure.
Brown, who said the issue was called to his attention at a public meeting in Santa Barbara, argued that permits issued by state agencies or local governments should not be spelled out in law.
Brown praised Friedman's intentions but admonished him for pressing the measure.
"The interest that Mr. Friedman had is a very noble one. I would doubt that there's a soul on this floor that isn't interested in protecting the coast," Brown said. "But in your zeal to pursue the environmental protection . . . I think you're going in the wrong direction."
But Brown cautioned that his objections should not be "interpreted as being pro-Chevron, anti-environment." In opposing the bill, Chevron argued that Friedman's real aim is to prevent any crude oil production from Point Arguello.
Jack Coffey, manager of California state relations for Chevron, also said Friedman's measure did not give his company as much flexibility on tankering as its Coastal Commission permit, in the event it fails to enter into a pipeline deal by February, 1994.
Coffey acknowledged that the company had made an earlier commitment to build a pipeline but failed to win approval of right of way.